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DC United vs CF Montreal Game Preview

Updated: May 31, 2023

Predicted Lineups: 


DC United 

Starters: - Tyler Miller, Victor Pálsson, Donovan Pines, Derrick Williams, Andy Najar, Pedro Santos, Chris Durkin, Lewis O’Brien, Mateusz Klich, Christian Benteke,

Subs: Alex Bono, Brendan Hines-Ike, Jacob Greene, Yamil Asad, Ted Ku-DiPietro, Eric Hurtado, Cristian Dájome, Kristian Fletcher, Taxi Fuentas

Captain: Steve Birnbaum

Formation: (3-5-2) 


Injury Report:

Out

  • Martin Rodriguez (knee)

  • Nigel Robertha (ankle)

  • Ruan (thigh)

  • Russell Canouse (concussion)

Questionable

  •  Mohanad Jeahze

  • Cristian Dájome


Starters: Jonathan Sirois, Rudy Camacho, Zachary Brault-Guillard, Joel Waterman, Aaron Herrera, Victor Wanyama, Ilias Iliadis, Ahmed Hamdi , Bryce Duke, Mathieu Choiniere, Chinonso Offor

Subs:  Logan Ketterer, Sunusi Ibrahim, Rida Zouhir, Ariel Lassiter, Gabriele Corbo, Róbert Thorkelsson, Nathan-Dylan Saliba, Rida Zouhir, Sean Rea

Captain: Victor Wanyama

The Formation = 3-4-2-1


Injury Report:

Out

  • Mason Toye

  • Romell Quioto

  • Samuel Piette




The Managers: 


DC United - Wayne Rooney 

Despite last Saturday's setback, DC United Head Coach Wayne Rooney has continued to improve DC United’s play in all aspects on the field. Every player has demonstrated some improvement this year. At the same time he has built a sense of camaraderie and teamwork that hasn’t been seen in years. 


Rooney is a pragmatic coach who continues to build his strategy around the strengths of his players, while putting in place tactics designed to mitigate their weaknesses. Rooney continues to preach the idea of playing with courage and on the front foot, yet at the same time patience and calmness on the ball when in the attack, so they can maintain control of the game. The last game not withstanding, United is playing better in defense and better controlling the flow of the game. The next step is for the Black & Red to improve in the final third and create more scoring opportunities.


This match versus CF Montreal will be a great test of whether Rooney can get his team to bounce back from a poor performance and play to the level they are capable of.


Opponent -  Hernán Losada -

CF Montreal made a surprising choice for Head Coach when they hired Hernán Losada to replace Wilfried Nancy who had left for the Columbus Crew. Considering there were quite a few question marks that surrounded Losada’s exit from DC United early into the 2022 MLS season.


When Losada was let go, stories of locker-room tensions, intense training sessions and constant player weigh-ins soured his relationship with the players. When the Argentine manager was shockingly fired last April, he had lasted just 41 total games with the Black & Red. When asked about his termination Losada described himself as a young coach who is still learning a lot as a coach and as a person.


In the first season Losada was Head Coach for United he was able to infuse more confidence in the team’s attack. He looks for his team to play an attacking press that leads to a fluid style in what is often a front four attack. 


CF Montreal hired Losada because they felt his high-tempo, high-pressing style would fit what Montréal wants to be their team identity. 


It was a rough start for Losada, and there were questions as to whether he would make it through the season, but since DC won in Montreal, his team has settled and has put together a number of wins, so that they are just behind DC in the standings. In true Losada fashion his team does not have a draw this season, it has six wins and eight losses, but that’s how he likes it.


Keys to the Match: 


Can DC bounce back from the Toronto letdown? The Black & Red went north of the border flying high, and were quickly humbled by a team that was willing to fight for it more. United didn’t show their grit and fight till it was too late, and were unable to get a second goal to save a point. 


These things happen, no team goes through the long slog of the MLS season without dips in form. What sets the best teams from those lower in the table is that they don’t let that blip become more. FC Cincinnati leads the Supporters Shield race, and they were handed a 5-1 loss to St Louis City. DC played down to their opponent last Saturday, now up to Rooney and his coaches to get the team back their confidence and play like they did the week before.


Can an improving DC United find a result against an improved CF Montreal? CF Montreal started the season on a sour note, playing like one of the worst teams in the league. They lost their first three matches before picking up a surprising win over Philadelphia. They would then lose their next three matches by an aggregate score of 0-10. Since then though they have won five of their seven MLS matches. Last week they beat Inter Miami at home. Prior to Saturday's match, DC was playing with confidence. That took a bit of a hit. The Black & Red will hope the short week allows for bounce-back performance from their underwhelming road loss to Toronto FC.


The Black & Red beat Montreal earlier this season, a 1-0 road win on April 15th, on the strength of Lewis O'Brien's goal in the 46th minute. That is CF Montreal's only home defeat. Montreal is surprisingly 5-1-0 in league play after Saturday's 1-0 victory over Inter Miami. But they are an ugly 1-7-0 on the road. United need to take advantage of that.


Wayne Rooney vs El Profesor - This will be the second match between Rooney and Hernán Losada, and will mark the first return to Audi Field for the young Argentinian Head Coach. Both young coaches brought excitement to United, unfortunately Losada wasn't able to build upon it. Rooney is now trying to build that culture that Losada missed on.


While Losada did coach the Black & Red, this is not his United team. The turnover of players since Losada was let go is quite remarkable. Of the potential starters on Wednesday night, only Steve Birnbaum, Andy Najar and Chris Durkin played for Losada, and Durkin had literally just rejoined the team from Belgium when Losada was let go.  


Both teams have been playing better and are right next to each other in the table. This will be an excellent opportunity to compare the coaching style of each manager.


Can DC United’s Defense continue to defend their home? After winning the season opener, DC had a dip of form at home. Currently though they have stepped up their defense and United are unbeaten in their last four home matches across all competitions, picking up three wins and one draw since April’s 2-0 loss against Columbus Crew.

Steven Birnbaum is back from injury and will most likely start in the middle of the Center Backs, giving Pines a rest. There is also Brendan Hines-Ike available who could give Victor Pálsson or Derrick Williams a breather.


One negative note going into this match is the absence of Russell Canouse who picked up a nasty knock in the Toronto game, and is now out due to concussion. Canouse has been DC United’s unheralded MVP of the defense, marking opponents and controlling the midfield. It will be interesting to see if Chris Durkin or Victor Pálsson move to the number six role. With Andy Najar available, look for Durkin to move inside and Najar help move the ball upfield.


Can DC exploit Losada’s press and hit the counter attack? DC United fans know all about Hernán Losada’s uptempo pressing defense and how it quickly transitions into the attack after forcing a turnover. DC has a great team for countering this style of play, especially with Christian Benteke up top.


The other weapon DC will have is strong central midfielders who can play through the middle of the field, and Andy Najar and Pedro Santos able to bring the ball up the wings. Losada encourages his wingers to push up against opposing full backs, so there will be space on the sidelines for the ball to be advanced.


Mateusz Klich and Lewis O’Brian as the team’s two Eights will continue to advance the ball, and will create opportunities for DC players, but also you will see them press Montréal’s midfielders with the support of their number six. While Rooney doesn’t press with the same intensity or as much as Hernan Losada, he does utilize it strategically to catch opponents unaware and launch a quick counterattack up the sides.


DC is getting a bit healthier. United actually should have a full bench to call upon even with Canouse out. Brendan Hines-Ike and Steve Birnbaum are back along with Pedro Santos and Andy Najar who will provide both defense and attack from the wings. Mateusz Klich and Lewis O’Brian are most likely the starting midfielders with Durkin supporting just behind and Asad off the bench to provide DC with the ability to either protect a lead or chase the game. Ted Ku-DiPietro and Kristian Fletcher will all be available for late in the game, where their energy and enthusiasm can discombobulate tired defenses.


Can Benteke and the DC offense beat Sirois? Defensively, CF Montreal has been much have been much improved over the team that lost by a 10-0 goal differential across three matches at the beginning of April. Montréal’s defensive solidity has empowered 21-year-old Goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois to six clean sheets across all competitions in his last nine appearances.


Christian Benteke is scoring, and if he can get service should challenge Sirois.



Things to Watch: 


Offense - The DC United offense had started to click more and more with the three goals scored against LA as explicit proof, but was somewhat lost against Toronto FC. Christian Benteke and Taxi Fuentas both should start against Montréal, which will allow Ted KDP to slide back into a super sub role that has seemed to better suit him. Benteke and Taxi can be the perfect partners up top if they can stay healthy. Taxi plays off Benteke’s holdup play perfectly, making runs and pulling defenders. Because of this Benteke had seen more space which has allowed him to really show his dribbling and passing ability. 


Similarly Mateusz Klich and Lewis O’Brien are proving to be an amazing pairing in the midfield. Klich and O’Brien don’t need to score, but rather are masters at getting the ball from the opponent and making smart passes to teammates. 


The base formation for DC is a flat 3-5-2, which allows players to move fluidly around the field. You will see O’Brien on the left pick up a ball and hit a long diagonal pass to Taxi on the right, who will hit Klich in the middle. The next time you might see O’Brien receiving a pass from Najar on the right, play a one time to  Benteke in the middle who slides it to Taxi on the left. There is a progressive movement of both ball and players that looks to unbalance the opposing team.


Andy Najar gives the team another maestro with the ball, and both he and Pedro Santos provide better passing than their younger counterparts. Having them back should give Benteke and Taxi more service in dangerous positions.


Off the bench will probably be Ted Ku-DiPietro has shown he can come in and give a boost of octane to the offense. Expect Yamil Asad to give Taxi a rest if the team is winning, and Ted KDP if the team is chasing a goal. Yamil Asad is also expected off the bench. While his defense has vastly improved, he’s still a threat to score. Ted KDP’s and  Asad’s energy and aggressive play make them perfect for coming off the bench.

There are going to be opportunities for DC to score.


Defense - DC United have to handle CF Montréal’s dynamic pressing style of play, which will see players moving without the ball to exploit space, and get behind defenders for quick passes after turnovers. Wayne Rooney will continue to utilize a back three as it has proven to be the most defensively sound formation for this team; and quite frankly they have played better with Victor Pálsson’s leadership in the line. Steve Birnbaum is back, but expect him to be subbed in to ease him back into the lineup.


Andy Najar should play Right Wingback, and push further up the field. Expect to see him again pushing all the way into the Montréal’s box.


With Mo Jeahze hurt, Pedro Santos will get another start at Left Wingback. Jacob Greene will be backup for both positions, and I expect him to get some playing time as both Santos and Najar have picked up knocks this season, so should see their minutes monitored.


Russell Canouse has been solid in the midfield, and Rooney has trusted him to the point that his name on the team sheet is almost in pen. Expect him to start again, especially as he didn’t have to play Wednesday, and Chris Durkin played the whole match. Durkin and Asad will most likely come off the bench in the second half as they have proven to be lock down defenders who can see out the match.


Tyler Miller has been strong in between the posts, and has grown in confidence as his defense has become more consistent. After watching Alex Bono have a great Cup match, expect Miller to step up his game. If he plays the way he has the last few weeks, he could very well earn his third clean sheet of the season.



By the Numbers:


D.C. United are currently 8th in the Eastern Conference, tied on points with 3 teams.


DC United ranks 11th in MLS with 20 goals, 1.3 per match.

DC United has conceded 18 goals (14th)


DC United ranks 11th in MLS in goal differential at +2.


Benteke leads DC United with 7 goals and 1 assist


Mateusz Klich has 2 goals and 3 assists  (13th in the league)


Lewis O’Brien has added 1 goal and 2 assists.


Taxiarchis Fountas has scored 3 goals but has no assists


Montreal sits 21st in the league with 22 goals conceded, 1.6 per match


Montreal’s 13 goals in 14 matches rank 23rd


At -9 for the season, Montreal ranks 25th in MLS in goal differential


Chinonso Offor has scored 3 goals for Montreal.


Mathieu Choiniere has 2 goals and 2 assists


Aaron Herrera has zero goals this season, but does have 3 assists.


Romell Quioto has three goals (on 12 shots, 0.9 per game).

 

Predictions:


2-0 victory over Montreal. The Black & Red have started to play with confidence and fun. The team is relatively healthy so now is the time for DC to play on its front-foot and put a stamp on the season by beating a team that’s poor on the road.


Coverage: Apple TV - Free

Pregame 7:15p 

Listen on…

📻: 1190am, 101.1HD2, 104.7fm

💻: iHeartSportsDC

🔊: Any Smart Speaker 

📱: @iHeartRadio App


Written by: RJ Rolsen 


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